Companies want people who know a little bit of everything. Jacks and Jills are all over the workplace map, gathering skills and networking like mad. How do you get into position to be one of those employees? Or should you? What do you gain or sacrifice by being “a master of none” and what do you bring to the table? Our panel will focus on the employee who works for many and is beholden to none.
At that, we’re wrapping up here. Send any other questions to these panelists to their handles above via Twitter.
Thanks for reading!
Mitchell: I don’t hire so much as facilitate it.
He does talent recruiting. Works as a consultant with NPR to work with potential partners. He’s looking for a variety of skill sets to bring in. Need to have a journalism background – one year of experience too 10, 15, 20. Depends on the station and what they need. Take that station, as a legacy operation,to help it expand to where the audience is.
Gardiner: I want the best person for the job, no matter what their age.
Flexibility is key. In a lot of cases, I want people who have weird hours available. I have overnight projects. If people have a specific skill set, passion or network – that makes them appealing. She doesn’t care about their location or who they are – they work virtually. It’s about getting results and meeting deadlines.
Lee: I look favorably upon trying new things. It depends on the job.
We’re looking for aVP of biz dev. Job description was looking for someone with a lot of sales experience. We interviewed a lot of those sort of people and realized that sort of personality didn’t fit with our culture. So, we looked for a similar skill set with a different vibe, like political fundraising.
Things can be more flexible now. Just as the 50s were defined by this blue suit, Revolutionary Road kind of thing, this one will be defined by what we build on our own.
Obamacare helps. We may not need to be employed full-time in a traditional space to get health care. That helps one issue of flexibility.
Question: I came up in legacy media, what do younger hiring managers think of applicants like me? What are the skills issues we may face?
Lee: I need to see that you’ve had some experience with what you’re getting into. You don’t have to be an expert.
We’re good at finding out information. I want to see, “Do they know technology? How do they interact on social media? WordPress, Tumblr, etc.”
Comfortable with ad sales, project management. Her own “side project” (one of many) is event planning.
Mitchell: You have to think before you say, “Yes.” I schedule myself really well. I turn off my computer at 9 pm. I work hard at being organized.
Question: How do you balance being flexible with being an expert in your field?
Lee: One area experience hurts is that the salary requirements are sometimes too high for smaller news orgs or startups, hence why they might hire younger people.
If you’re interested in the startup space, you may need to demonstrate that you can fit with their culture. That can be a concern sometimes.
Mitchell: I wouldn’t cede the space to someone half my age. The old school experience still has its benefits.
Lee: A young person right out of school actually wouldn’t usually have the contacts to build these kind of jobs for themselves.
Knowing someone has a known skill set helps me make hires. It helps to have been a reporter or editor or copyeditor for a lot of “dream jobs”. For a certain kind of job, I’m actually reluctant to hire someone who hasn’t had some involvement with reporting, “mainstream” journalism jobs.
Gardiner: You make up the job you want and o it until somebody pays you.
Consulting is similar to pitching freelance stories. I’m always thinking three months from now. You have to do some scary stuff like think about taxes and income and insurance…but there’s freedom.
Are dream jobs in media only for young people or recent graduates?
Mitchell: Enhancing your personal brand is important. He did it by going to a lot of conferences. He didn’t sit in the student newsroom and not talk to anyone, he went to the sessions. He wasn’t known, but he passed out a lot of cards. Introduced himself to a lot of people.
Advice: Find a mentor. If you don’t have one, get one. If you could be a mentor, so it. Pay it forward.
Lee: A lot of lists for the likes of SXSW, SparkCamp, ONA, etc. are built by being known and fitting a sort of niche.
“I’m a woman, Asian and young, so that gets me on a lot of lists, ” Lee jokes. “Me and Matt Thompson – we check off the boxes. “
Tauzin goes to questions sent in advance.
Question: How do you get into a position to be noticed by news organizations and get work?
Gardiner: She graduated from j-school into the downward job market. She was in Chicago and the papers were in a downturn.
She went ot grad school at Medill, did the internships and “all the right things, but still couldn’t get a job.”
In her early jobs, she got into social media and started hosting live chats. It all sort of developed from there.
Now she essentially does freelancing. She’s training journalists some stuff that’s simplistic, but relevant. Teaching reporters to use their phones to do live reporting, for instance.
In freelancing, doing things on your own, “We can skip over some of the stuff that Jenny and Doug had to do and get right to the storytelling.”
Her advice: Find your biggest talent. For me, it’s finding good talent and connecting good journalism with technology. “Other people are better reporters than I, but that’s OK.”
Mitchell says working at NPR was kind of siloed by show. He went to look for work that wasn’t being done. He sees it as a way to move up and into new positions within an existing conference.
He got involved in lots of organizations like AAJA, UNITY, NABJ, etc. Working with students to help find and nurture talent to bring into the industry.
We need to look for different kinds of people, not just culturally, but in skills too.
He notes nobody of color was among the Knight News Challenge winners. He asked why – and he was told nobody was present. He’d like to see that change.
Lee spent many years at the NYT and has launched her own startup at Plympton.com. It’s already profitable and has two females in the lead.
She came through int he 90s through very formalized internship programs. They had a lot of rules: No freshman, need references, work samples, etc.
“You stepped on the escalator and it would keep taking you along as long as you didn’t screw up.”
It isn’t like that way anymore. It’s an industry in flux and there are few rules.
She also runs the Hacks/Hackers newsletter and sees a lot of job postings.
When it’s an existing, older job like a political reporter at the NYT, the recruiters would look to the likes of the reporters doing that at the Washington Post and similar – a very particular applicant pool. But for a new job like a data journalist, it doesn’t work tat way. They have to open it up.
Working as a reporter at NYT, she knew she was good at that, but noted, “You’re not that useful when you’re good at just that one thing.”
Seeing the industry in flux, she knew she had to expand. Over the last few years, she’s helped to build other things like Hacks/Hackers and the Awesome Foundation.
If you have a traditional journalism background and have a background in, say, partnership-building, it can really open things up.
Her advice: Even in your day jobs, you have opportunities to show your mettle through extracurriculars. When she’s hiring, she looks for something that you’ve built from scratch.
In reporting, you can judge a candidate by what they have in paper clips and bylines. In the “real world” it doesn’t work that way. For new positions, you want to see original work. It also definitely helps in who you know to find out about these jobs and find your way into new positions.
Gardiner is a consultant, “Doing the work nobody else wants to deal with.”
She works with larger news operations withint he likes of NPR stations, but also tech startups.
She says she travels like 25 weeks a year, all over the country and world, which she likes. Always meeting people and making friends. Feeding ideas and contacts to the people she knows.
She’s found a home in non-profit media, as they feel journalism should be high-quality, but also well-trafficked.
Mitchell says he’s done a number of jobs at NPR, producer, reporter, etc. He thinks it is because he’d get bored.
At one point an opening came up to help put together All Things Considered on Fridays – on overtime. That led to work with Weekend Edition and, eventually his own work on Next Gen Radio.
“I tried to become indispensable.”
When a reporter files right before the staff was set to go to air, they needed a producer who could be relied upon to put the piece together quickly and ont he air ASAP. That was Mitchell, as the “crash producer”.
He developed a reputation as someone who could get things done.
They ended his job and he thought, “what do I do now.”
It turned out, he’d made enough connections at conferences and through his work that people knew he was there. There were projects to be done and he was offered a lot of work – and he didn’t turn it down. It helps he “was a good schmoozer.”
Tauzin: This year’s career summit is inspired by this article in Fast Company called “Generation Flux” – http://bit.ly/RAvzif
Smith touts the new redesign of USA Today and notes that Gannett has a ton of open jobs for those seeking work here at ONA12.
He urges everyone to check out the open jobs and especially Gannett’s talent development program at http://www.gannett.com/section/careers01
And we’re off. Anna Tauzin is our host for the duration. Virgil Smith of the Gannett Foundation is our sponsor. He’s giving an introduction.
We’re running a few minutes behind, but for now, the room is enjoying the dulcet sounds of Arcade Fire as we await the panel’s intro.
Looks like this might be a full house today in Ballroom C. Come claim your seat for the Career Summit!
The Career Summit is about to begin. Thirty minutes in Ballroom C.